• Austria's news in English
Minister rejects EC critics over caps
Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner. Photo: ORF screenshot

Minister rejects EC critics over caps

The Local/AFP · 20 Feb 2016, 15:10

Published: 20 Feb 2016 15:10 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"It should be generally known that Austria does not have an external EU border and is therefore not the first safe country that these people (migrants) set foot in," Johanna Mikl-Leitner told the Austria Press Agency (APA).

"If everybody stuck to the content of the letter (from migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos), then Austria would not have a problem with it. But the letter was clearly sent to the wrong address," Mikl-Leitner said.

Instead, the complaints should be sent to safe countries that the migrants pass through on their way to Austria, she said, in a reference in particular to Greece, the main entry point in the European Union for migrants.

In 2015, over one million people reached Europe's shores -- nearly half of them Syrians fleeing the civil war -- causing the bloc a major political headache.

Austria last year took in 90,000 asylum seekers, making it one of the highest recipients in the EU on a per-capita basis, while almost 10 times that number passed through, mostly to Germany and Sweden.

Faced with a resurgent far-right opposition topping opinion polls, Austria's centrist government this week imposed the new cap and said only 3,200 migrants could pass through per day.

Border controls are being tightened and the government wants only 37,500 asylum claims this year.

On Thursday, amid widespread criticism of Austria, Avramopoulos sent a letter to Mikl-Leiter calling the cap "plainly incompatible with Austria's obligations under European and international law."

The measures have also raised fears that when migrant numbers spike as expected again in the coming months as spring arrives, there will be a dangerous backlog of people along the Balkans route from Greece northwards.

New asylum claims

On Friday, when the new restrictions came into effect, no single migrant entered Austria, due to bad weather.

On Saturday 396 people, many of them families and including some elderly people, entered at the main Spielfeld border crossing point with Slovenia in southern Austria, police said.

Story continues below…

But of these only 12 applied for asylum, the others saying they wished to travel onwards to Germany and transported in army buses to migrant centres, police spokesman Wolfgang Braunsar said.

Vienna says its unilateral moves are necessary because a German-backed EU plan agreed in November for Turkey to stem the flow of migrants leaving its shores for Greece is not yet working.

The EU and Turkey are due to hold a summit on March 6 to seek to firm up their agreement, which would see migrants flown directly from Turkey and shared -- in theory -- around certain members of the bloc.

In return for sealing its borders, Turkey would receive several billion euros in aid and other sweeteners including reinvigorating its drive for EU membership and easing visa restrictions.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local/AFP (news.austria@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

Vienna Comic Con promises to be 'bigger and more galactic'
Cosplay star Yaya Han. Copyright: Yaya Han/Bryan Humphrey

Comic Con returns to the Austrian capital on November 19th-20th at the Messe Wien.

Three refugees arrested on drugs charges
Cannabis plants. Photo: J. Patrick Bedell/Wikimedia

A gang of three Afghani drug dealers has been busted in Vienna.

Hungarian woman crushed by snowcat piste machine
Snowcat machine. Photo: Melensdad/Wikimedia

A young Hungarian woman has died after being crushed by a snowcat piste machine on the Dobratsch mountain in Carinthia.

Austrian policeman sentenced over 'Heil Hitler' salute
Photo: Flickr

A policeman in Austria was sentenced on Thursday for shouting "Heil Hitler" at a driver during a traffic check at the Hungarian border in April.

Scary clown craze endangers crucial work of clown 'doctors'
Photo: Bojan Tavcar

Within the last couple weeks, disturbing events involving masked individuals has caught public attention in Austria.

Chimney sweep rescues lost mushroom picker
Photo: James Lindsey/Wikimedia

A 76-year-old Austrian man who went out mushroom picking almost froze to death after getting lost and spending the night in the forest.

Refugees sold into forced prostitution
File photo: UNHCR

Female refugees are being sold into forced prostitution in Austria, a police investigation into human trafficking has found.

Driverless bus takes a spin around Salzburg's old town
The Arma driverless shuttle bus. Photo: Navya

A driverless minibus has made a test journey in the city of Salzburg.

No jail time for asylum seeker who dumped baby in road
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A man who grabbed his own child and dumped her in the middle of a busy road has been given a nine-month suspended sentence.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available